Thanks for Can-Shaped Cranberry Sauce
Thanksgiving! Yeah! We eat amazing food. We tell stories and make memories that get passed on year to year. Third grade classes stage oversimplified musicals about Pilgrims & Indians. Aunt Gilda falls asleep after three-too-many G-and-Ts. The dog has a field day with handouts. Most importantly, we give thanks.
Thanks you say?! For what? This economy? This job? This [war, bills, teenager, insert your complaint here]?
No! Psychologists have demonstrated the power of literal thanks-giving, and if focused on the right things, the very act is enough to power up your personal happiness meter, obliterate war and aggression, and basically make life… perfect.
Actually, the research includes both correlational and experimental studies, and the findings are clear–giving thanks is associated with a lot of good stuff. In one study, participants who made a list of things they were grateful for (e.g., nice shoes, good relationship, Cherry Twizzler Nibs in left pocket) reported being happier and in a better mood compared to people who listed problems or even just neutral things about their life.
This boost in happiness has also been found in people with serious problems like life-threatening disease. Those with major issues still show a significant boost in happiness after expressing thanks for what IS good.
What about fending off attacks over mashed potatoes and gravy? After all, some family debates have the tendency to heat up to full-blown war. Fortunately, expressing gratitude can also decrease aggression. Researchers feel this is perhaps because giving thanks puts one in more of an empathetic state of mind.
Therefore, when little Jessica reaches for the last piece of peach cobbler, and Granpappy Gill pokes her hand with a steak knife in order to lay claim… rather than ignite violence, express thanks! For instance… you could be thankful for having a mouth. Peach cobbler wouldn’t even be a viable option with no mouth.
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